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January 2015

A History of Predicted Snowstorms That Fizzled

FizzleThis post was inspired by the "great blizzard" of Jan. 26-27, 2015 that was a bust.  Predicted to bury New York under as much as 24-30" of snow, just under ten inches fell.  Although this was a significant accumulation it was a pittance compared to what had been advertised.  A contrite National Weather Service even issued an apology to New York's mayor, who, based on its forecast, called the storm one of "historic proportions", ordered schools closed and urged businesses to let employees work from home.  Meanwhile the governor of New York ordered the City's transit system shut down as well.  This is one of fifteen storms since 1980 that were heralded as blockbusters but then petered out or brought rain or sleet instead of snow. Details of each follow.

 

 

Blizzard.of.2015

 

ROLL-CALL OF WINTER STORMS THAT DIDN'T DELIVER

Jan. 15, 1983 - A predicted snowstorm failed to materialize as temperatures stayed above freezing (the day's high/low was 36/33).  The combination of drizzle and wet snow (one inch) that fell between mid-morning and mid-afternoon amounted to 0.65" of liquid precipitation in Central Park.  This would have produced about half a foot of snow had the temperature been a few degrees colder.  Although suburbs north and west of the City received significant snowfall, snow lovers in NYC would have to wait another month for a substantial snowfall (the blizzard of Feb. 11-12).

March 28-29, 1984 - A big coastal storm had potential to dump substantial amounts over a number of days.  And while 3.5" did fall, it fell sporadically and was interspersed with periods of rain.

Dec. 17, 1989 - During one of the coldest and driest Decembers on record this was going to be a big snow producer, but the storm moved too far off the coast.  And what precipitation there was fell mostly as rain, and just 0.7" of the white stuff was measured.

March 13, 1993 - Although 10.6" of snow piled up from the ferocious storm billed as the "Storm of the Century", the predicted 15-18" didn't materialize because of a changeover to sleet and then rain in the early evening.

Jan 17, 1994 - This winter storm sucked in more mild air than expected, resulting in a mostly rain event (after starting as a brief period of snow that accumulated 1.3").  1.34" of precipitation fell in total, a record for the date.  The temperature rose sharply, from 12° at midnight to 47° by early afternoon, and began tumbling later as another Arctic air mass moved in.  

Feb. 8-9, 1994 - This was more of an under-performer rather than a fizzle because 9" fell in total.  The first part of the storm delivered 7.2" of snow in a relatively short time (9AM thru 1PM), but then a dry slot developed and the rest of the afternoon was dry.  When precipitation resumed in the evening it came down as sleet rather than snow day, reducing the predicted accumulation by four or five inches (1.8" fell on the 7th). 

March 31, 1997 - There was early talk of significant snowfall, but the City received only rain (2.32") as the temperature stayed above freezing (winds gusted between 40 and 50 mph).  Boston, meanwhile, was buried by 25 inches of snow on April Fool's Day.

March 6, 2001 - At one point 12-18" of snow was predicted from what the Weather Channel labeled "The March Lion" and City schools were closed before the storm even began as a precautionary measure.  And while parts of Long Island saw a foot or more, Central Park had 3.5" as the storm developed a bit further north than expected.

Feb. 6, 2010 - A huge weekend snowstorm that buried DC, Baltimore, Philly and Pittsburgh with 20-30" of snow came achingly close to NYC, but it stopped at our doorstep.  Although parts of Staten Island picked up three inches of snow, Central Park saw just a few snow flurries.

Feb. 10, 2010 - Although 10" piled up, 12"-18" had been predicted but because the temperature stayed warmer than expected, hovering in the 32°-33° range, the snow had a lot of water content which kept the accumulation down (1.33" of liquid was measured). It was a drippy, slushy type of snow (especially on the streets). 

March 3, 2014 - A winter storm that, a few days earlier, was predicted to dump significant amounts of snow on NYC (6-12"), was pushed to the south by an Arctic high and delivered a dusting of 0.1" (which would be the only measurable snow of a month that was the coldest March since 1960). 

Jan. 26-27, 2015 - Late in the afternoon on 1/25 a blizzard warning was issued for the area and NYC prepared for 40-65 mph winds and more than two feet of snow.  In preparation the mayor advised workers to stay home on Monday and Tuesday (most of the people in my office left by 3:00 on Monday); City schools cancelled classes on the 27th; subway and train service was suspended at 11PM on the 26th; and non-essential vehicles were prohibited from roads.  The first indication that the storm might not deliver came after dark on the 26th when a "dry slot" moved in for four hours (after five inches had fallen).  Then the blizzard warning was revoked after midnight as the storm moved further off the coast than expected.  And while we had a significant snowfall of 9.8" (which was the biggest accumulation of the winter), just 30 miles to the east 18-24" buried Long Island.

March 14, 2017 - There was fevered talk that this storm might challenge the Blizzard of 1888 as biggest snow maker in the month of March, but the storm jogged a bit further west than expected and the snow changed to sleet (temperatures stayed below freezing throughout the storm).  7.6" of snow accumulated, with heavy accumulation of sleet on top of the snow.  However, accumulations of 15-20" were common north of NYC where no changeover occurred.

March 7, 2018 - While many towns in northern New Jersey and the lower Hudson Valley were buried by one to two feet of snow, a nor'easter that produced heavy, wet snow left far less in New York than had been predicted.  Despite snow falling steadily from late morning (accompanied by thunder) until 8PM, just 3.2" was measured in Central Park.  This was largely due to temperatures that stayed above freezing for the entire event (which had been predicted).  Curiously, the snowfall forecast was adjusted upward later in the morning to 8-12".  Despite the modest snowfall, the amount of liquid that fell amounted to 1.41".  

Jan. 19-20, 2019 - From the get-go there was uncertainty about this storm, i.e., its path, how much warm air was going to be brought in, and how Arctic air would interact with it.  Five days out the forecast was calling for snow Saturday afternoon changing to sleet/freezing rain, then to rain, then back to snow.  A few days later it was thought colder air would gain the upper hand, bringing significant amounts of snow to the City (4-7"), but with a changeover to rain still expected (with a possibility that the storm might be an all-snow event).  Then the day before the system moved in the forecast changed again as milder air was expected to infiltrate the coast, with an inch or two of snow expected at the onset; it was also expected to move through more quickly.  Because of these mitigating factors no winter storm warning was issued, just a watch (warnings were posted north and west of the City).  We ended up with a cold rain of more than an inch that started after dark and continued through the morning of the 20th (0.2" of sleet/snow was measured). 

 

 

 

 

 

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Warming Trend: A Decade-by-Decade Analysis

Women-Ice-Skating-by-J.R.-Taylor

 

Monthly temperatures for New York (Central Park) go back to 1869.  With this century-and-a-half treasure trove of data in front of me, I calculated each decades' monthly temperatures.  As I immersed myself in the data, a story emerged - New York was noticeably cooler before 1930, and every month's coldest decade occurred in that period.  A second story was that the decade of the 2010s became the warmest decade for eight months (April thru October, and December).  Other findings:

 

  • Comparing pre-1930 decades with 1930 onward shows that March has warmed the most (+3.5 degrees), followed by February (+3.2).  The least warming has occurred in September (+1.4 degrees) and June (+1.5).
  • The biggest difference in temperature between a month's coldest and warmest decade has occurred with February and March.  In the 1880s March's mean temperature was 35.4° degrees while it was 42.9° in the 1980s, a warm up of 7.5 degrees.  In February the pre- and post- temperatures were 29.4° and 36.3°.
  • While March in the years between 1930 and 1999 was 3.5 degrees warmer than the six decades before 1930, in the 21st century it has been 4.5 degrees warmer.  June, July and October were just 0.2 degrees warmer than their respective months in the 1930-1999 period.
  • Until the 2010s the warmest decade for September and October was the 1940s.
  • In the first two decades of the 20th century February was colder than January by a significant margin (29.9° vs 32.3°).
  • Worldwide, the first decade of the 21st century has been the warmest on record, but New York's warmest decade was the 1990s. (However, the 2000s had NYC's mildest Aprils and Novembers.)  

 

COLDEST & WARMEST DECADES BY MONTH
         
  Coldest Warmest
    Mean   Mean
  Decade Temp Decade Temp
January 1880-89 28.7 1990-99 34.8
February 1900-09 29.4 1990-99 36.3
March 1880-89 35.4 1980-89 42.9
April 1870-79 48.1 2010-19 54.2
May 1870-79 60.1 2010-19 64.3
June 1910-19 69.0 2010-19 72.2
July 1880-89 74.6 2010-19 78.8
August 1880-89 72.0 2010-19 76.4
September 1870-79 65.4 2010-19 70.5
October 1890-99 55.5 2010-19 59.2
November 1870-79 42.0 2000-09 48.6
December 1870-79 32.8 2010-19 39.8
Source: NOAA Local Climatological Data

 

TEMPERATURE TRENDS OVER THREE PERIODS
         
  Mean Temperature Degrees Diff
  Before     2000-2019 vs
  1930 1930-1999 2000-2019 Before 1930
January 31.0 32.6 33.0 2.0
February 30.9 33.9 35.6 4.7
March 38.3 41.5 42.7 4.4
April 49.5 52.1 54.0 4.5
May 60.7 62.6 63.2 2.5
June  70.1 71.6 71.8 1.7
July 75.2 76.9 77.4 2.2
August 73.3 75.3 76.1 2.8
September 67.0 68.3 69.7 2.7
October 56.0 57.8 58.2 2.2
November 44.0 47.3 47.7 3.7
December 34.4 36.6 38.8 4.2
FULL YEAR 52.6 54.8 55.7 3.1
         

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Biggest January Rainstorms

Weather_rainy_dayNot only was the 2.10" deluge on Jan. 18, 2015 a record for the date, it was New York's biggest January rainstorm in sixteen years (since Jan. 3, 1999, when 2.42" fell).  This makes it the biggest January rainstorm of the 21st century.  And in the years between 1999 and 2015 there were four January's that had about this amount of rain for the entire month.  Since 1970 this was the eighth biggest January rainstorm (ranked ninth if snowstorms are added to the mix).  Other findings:

 

  • Of the eleven storms in January since 1970 that produced more than two inches of precipitation, two are snowstorms - the blizzard of Jan. 7-8, 1996 and the snowstorm of Jan. 26-27, 2011.
  • Among the rainstorms, 2014's had the coldest temperatures, which ranged between 34 and 42.  Seven of the other rainstorms had temperatures rise into the 50s.
  • 1979 has two rainstorms on the list, and they occurred just three days apart. 
  • Six of the storms occurred between Jan. 23 and Jan. 28.
  • 2014's precipitation was concentrated in 13 hours; only the 1999 storm had a shorter duration, 12 hours.  Most of the other storms lasted 18 hours or more.

 

JANUARY STORMS THAT PRODUCED MORE THAN TWO INCHES OF PRECIPITATION (1970-2015)
 
         
      Temp  
Date Amount Hours Range Comments
Jan 20-21, 1979 3.98" 19 54/27 Began as 0.5" of snow
Jan 26-28, 1976 2.89" 28 56/35  
Jan 4, 1982 2.73" 15 58/36  
Jan 23-24, 1998 2.65" 20 47/34  
Jan 3, 1999 2.42" 12 51/35  
Jan 24-25, 1979 2.32" 16 53/35  
Jan 25-26, 1978 2.25" 18 58/35  
Jan 7-8, 1996 2.16" 25 23/16 All snow 20.2")
Jan 18, 2014 2.10" 13 42/34  
Jan 25-26, 1986 2.07" 23 51/38  
Jan 26-27, 2011 2.06" 21 32/29 All snow (19.0")
Source: NOAA, Local Climatological Data

 

 

 


Unlike Rest of World, 2014 Was Far From Warmest Year in New York

Globalwarming

 

Scientists at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on Friday (1/16) that the Earth experienced its warmest year on record in 2014.  However, the story was different in New York City as 2014 was the coolest in five years.  (And in the past 50 years, two-thirds of the years were warmer than 2014.)  Seven months last year experienced cooler than average temperatures, with January, February, March, and November being especially below average.   And during the summer, only eight days saw 90-degree readings (average number is eighteen), with the hottest being just 92°.

 

MONTHLY DEPARTURE FROM AVERAGE: 2014 (DEGREES)
       
January -4.0    
February -3.7    
March -4.8    
April -0.7    
May +1.6    
June +1.0    
July -0.4    
August -0.7    
September +1.7    
October +2.7    
November -2.4    
December +3.2    
ANNUAL -0.8    
       

New York's warmest year was 2012 (2.8 degrees warmer than 2014), just 0.1 degree warmer than 1990, 1991 and 1998.  Four of the Earth's ten warmest years are also among New York's top 10.  Despite the overall warming trend, two of our warmest years occurred more than 60 years ago (1949 and 1953).

 

10 WARMEST YEARS IN NEW YORK CITY
   
  Mean
  Temp
2012 57.3
1998 57.2
1991 57.2
1990 57.2
1953 57.0
1949 56.9
2006 56.8
2010 56.7
1999 56.5
2011 56.4
2002 56.4
   
30-Year Average 55.3
2014 54.5
   

Although NYC wasn't as warm as the rest of the world in 2014, it's important to keep in mind that rising ocean levels resulting from the steady warm up will still effect us.  

 


Top 10 Weather Stories of 2014

 

A Cold Winter

The coldest temperature of the year was 4° degrees above zero on Jan. 7, which was the coldest reading in New York in ten years.  Then a low of 9° on Feb. 28 was the latest reading in the single digits since 1967.  Finally, in the first three months of the year there were 27 days with mean temperatures 10 degrees or more below average - the most since 1936.

 

Brrr

 

And a Snowy Winter

In the 30-day period between Jan. 21 and Feb. 18, 42.1" of snow fell, including three snowstorms of eight inches or more.

 

20140103_130248

 

Super Bowl Miracle

In the midst of a harsh winter, the weather gods delivered springlike conditions when the Super Bowl was played outdoors in northern New Jersey on Feb. 2.  The next day, however, winter returned with a vengeance as the temperature dropped by 25 degrees and eight inches of snow piled up less than 12 hours after the game ended.

Cold But Snowless March

March was the coldest since 1984.  However, just 0.1" of snow fell.  The closest we came to seeing a significant snowfall was at the beginning of the month when a major storm moved south of the region, suppressed by a strong Arctic high pressure system.

April Ends with Huge Rainstorm

4.97" of rain poured down on April 30.  Until this rainstorm this date was one of three that had never recorded an inch of rain.

 

Weather.nycthunderstorm

 

Late Arrival of 90-Degree Temperatures

The first 90-degree reading didn't occur until July 2, more than five weeks later than usual, and the latest date since 1985.  (And April had no 80-degree days for the first time in 14 years.)  The hottest period of the summer came at the end of August into early September.  This included the hottest day of the year, Sept. 2, when the high/low was 92°/77°.  In total there were just eight 90-degree days, well below the average of 17.

 

Weather_hot_sun 

 

Gray Skies Clear in Time for Fireworks

New York was on the northern fringe of Hurricane Arthur on the 4th of July, creating breezy showery conditions.  However, skies cleared early in the evening and the Macy's fireworks extravaganza went off without a hitch.

Marathon Runners Meet Resistance From High Winds

Winds gusting between 30 and 45 mph were responsible for the slowest winning times in the NYC Marathon in 30 years.  Chilly temperatures (low 40s) felt like they were in the low-to-mid-30s due to the high winds.

 

2014nycmarathon

 

December Nor'easter

A strong nor'easter lashed the area on Dec. 9.  It occurred very close to the date of the even more intense nor'easter of 1992.  Although the amount of rain was half the amount that fell on 4/30, it was a record for the date and was accompanied by gale force winds.

Mild December

December was milder than March.  The coldest reading was 24°.  Since 1970 only two other years had a milder reading for December's coldest temperature.  Christmas Day, with a high of 62°, was two degrees milder than Easter Sunday.  And although just an inch of snow fell during the month, it was more than what fell in snowier cities such as Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Chicago.

 

If you'd like to read about NYC's top 10 weather stories of 2013, double click here.



 

 

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When March is Colder Than December

Anomaly

 

Typically, the month of December is five degrees colder than March, but about every five years (based on records since 1960) March is colder.  2014 was one of these years, as March, the coldest in 30 years, was three degrees colder than December.  Of the 34 years (since 1869) in which March was colder than December, the most extreme was in 2015 when it was 12.7 degrees colder (that December was the mildest on record).  Here are some other tidbits ...

 

  • Of the years in which March has been colder than December, both months had below average temperatures in five of them.  The last time this happened was in 1916.  And in 1982 and 2006, despite March being colder than December, both months were milder than average.
  • The most consecutive years in which December was colder than March is fourteen, from 1942 thru 1955.  However, there have never been more than two consecutive years in which March was colder than December.  (UPDATE: This is no longer the case as March 2015 was also colder than the December preceding it.)  Finally, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, March was colder than December in half of the years. 
  • Interestingly, one of the coldest Marches on record, in 1960, wasn't colder than that year's December, which was also much below average.

 

LAST 10 YEARS WHEN MARCH
WAS COLDER THAN DECEMBER
       
  Mean Temp Difference
  March Dec. March v Dec.
Average* 42.5 37.5 5.0
       2015     38.1     50.8         -12.7
2014 37.7 40.5 -2.8
2011 42.3 43.3 -1.0
2006 43.1 43.6 -0.5
2001 39.6 44.1 -4.5
1996 38.9 41.3 -2.4
1994 40.7 42.2 -1.5
1984 36.7 43.8 -7.1
1982 42.0 42.8 -0.8
1971 40.1 40.8 -0.7
*1980-2010      
       
       
GREATEST TEMP DIFFERENCE
(MARCH V DECEMBER)
       
  Mean Temp Difference
  March Dec. March v Dec.
2015 38.1 50.8 -12.7
1984 36.7 43.8 -7.1
1891 35.8 42.3 -6.5
1923 36.8 42.0 -5.2
1885 30.6 35.7 -5.1
1911 34.7 39.4 -4.7
1888 30.0 34.7 -4.7
2001 39.6 44.1 -4.5